So what, we’re supposed to believe that a guy in a New England Patriots shirt filming the sideline of an upcoming opponent from the press box wasn’t following explicit orders from Bill Belichick?
He was just innocently filming B-roll of the things an advance scout in the NFL looks at during a game, not there for something more … sinister? That if Bill Belichick had happened on the scene he would have tackled the guy rather than patted him on the head?
And I’m basing a lot of that on Belichick’s response to a question about SpyGate that he answered during his epic "Mona Lisa Vito" press conference in early 2015, the day before the Patriots flew out to Arizona for Super Bowl 49.
The topic of the day was DeflateGate and Belichick — in a surreal 20 minutes — detailed how he’d run experiments to find how footballs lost air pressure and blah, blah, blah, see it all below.
But Belichick’s response to a question posed by Associated Press reporter Jimmy Golen about the videotaping scandal a decade earlier made everyone’s ears perk up.
"I mean, look, that's a whole other discussion," Belichick said. "The guy's giving signals out in front of 80,000 people, OK? So we filmed him taking signals out in front of 80,000 people, like there were a lot of other teams doing at that time, too. Forget about that. If we were wrong then, we've been disciplined for that. … The guy's in front of 80,000 people. 80,000 people saw it. Everybody [on the] sideline saw it. Everybody sees our guy in front of the 80,000 people. I mean, there he is. So, it was wrong, we were disciplined for it. That's it. We never did it again. We're never going to do it again and anything else that's close, we're not going to do, either."
There’s a lot of meat on the bone in that 120-word response — especially the sideswipe mention of a lot of other teams doing the same thing — but what I focus in on is the end of the statement.
“We never did it again. We're never going to do it again and anything else that's close, we're not going to do, either."
Taping opposing sidelines and deciphering hand signals was never, ever worth the time, effort, headache, scandal, fine, embarrassment and reputation stain it caused.
It just didn’t produce fruit. Belichick once told me, “If there were 100 things to do to get ready for a game, that stuff was about 99 on the list. It wasn’t a priority.”
So why did they do it? Because it was available intel that could be gathered. Before every game, you’ll see members of coaching staffs from both teams standing at the 50-yard line watching their opponents warm up. Staring. Gathering any last-minute intel on how injured players might be moving, which players are lining up where, anything. How much does it help? Probably not much. Why do it? Because it’s there.
The idea that Belichick would stand at a podium, more than seven years removed from the day the Patriots had a videographer pinched on the Jets sideline and be that adamant, then four years later give the OK to have a guy in a Patriots shirt stand in a press box and film the sideline for team consumption?
Like nobody would notice? Like nobody would care? He’s smarter than that. I’m smarter than that. You’re smarter than that.
People will believe what they want to believe. The vast majority of football-watching America will believe the Patriots were cheating because that’s the narrative they’ve been fed for a decade and a half.
Anything requiring people with their minds made up to think critically about an allegation is going to be dismissed out of hand. That’s why this is swallowed whole and pooped out as truth the same way Mike Tomlin’s intimations the Patriots were jamming their headsets in early 2015 was accepted as truth and — after it was debunked by the NFL — left a dent.
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